In New York, the city that hosted Edward Hopper for sixty years, the Whitney Museum delves into the romantic and artistic relationship between the city and the painter, on a human scale and far from clichés.
As if a photographer had used a canvas and brushes, Edward Hopper spent his six decades in New York imagining, exploring and painting the megalopolis like no one had ever done before.
Some of this prolific work on the city that hosted him from 1908 to 1967 is part of the “Edward Hopper’s New York” exhibition at the Whitney Museum, which houses the artist’s largest collection, of his 3,100 works. listed, and its special relationship with New York.
Works such as automaton (1927), Early Sunday Morning (1930), Room in New York (1932), New YorkMovie (1939) and Morning Sun (1952) are at the heart of this exhibition, along with watercolors of roofs and bridges, sketches for his creations and documents that shed light on the life of the American artist. In total, more than 200 pieces from the Whitney Fund and loans from public and private collections make up this exhibition, open until March 2023 in Manhattan.
Not “interested in vertical”
Far from the clichés of the “world-city”, a forest of skyscrapers, an incredible cultural mosaic and a global financial lung, Edward Hopper’s New York is on a human scale. “Hopper spent most of his life here, a few blocks from the Whitney Museum,” notes Kim Conaty, curator of the exhibition.
“He knew the same streets and witnessed the permanent cycle of demolitions and reconstructions, like today, where New York is constantly reinventing itself,” said the expert in a press release from the museum. “Like few have done so poignantly, Hopper has captured a city that is both ever-changing and unchanging, a particular place frozen in time and clearly shaped by his imagination,” she concludes.
Hopper preferred unsung, even ignored places, those off the beaten path, to the famous “skyline” of Manhattan and to emblematic monuments such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the Empire State Building. “I’ve never been interested in vertical,” he once joked.
Loneliness and emptiness
The man liked to isolate himself from the fury of the outside world. From 1913 until his death in 1967, Hopper lived with his wife, Josephine Nivison Hopper, also an artist and model for his paintings, in the same Washington Square apartment in Greenwich Village, lower Manhattan. From freelance illustrator, he became one of the most famous artists in the country.
A sort of “voyeur”, the painter born in 1882 in Nyack, a small town on the banks of the Hudson River, north of New York, has never ceased to explore the porous borders between public life and private life: windows, a constant element in his work, make it possible to show both the exterior and the interior of a building. He described this experience as a “common visual sensation”.
Hopper paints chimneys, empty buildings, shops, bridges and lonely everyday scenes. The painter’s particular light can cause a “scary, very dark” feeling, and even a feeling of “emptiness”, explains Jennifer Tipton, specialist in lighting for the theater, quoted by the Whitney Museum.
Some of the pieces in the exhibition come from a collection of works that once belonged to a Baptist minister, Arthayer Sanborn, who lived in the 1960s near the painter’s childhood home in Nyack. In a survey in October, the New York Times wondered how a pastor could have amassed up to 300 works by the painter.
Before his death in 2007, Sanborn had claimed, without evidence, that they were gifts from the Hopper couple or pieces recovered from the artist’s apartment after his death.
“Edward Hopper’s New York,” through March 5, 2023. Whitney Museum – New York.